David Freiburger has wanted a proper Pro Street car in the Roadkill fleet for some time now, and his friends at Wesley Motorsport in Lansing, Michigan, have come through in the best way possible with this uber-’90s-style Pro Street 1980 Dodge Mirada. According to the man who created the event, your average Drag Week car is not a Pro Street car, but this Dodge Mirada is for sure, and it comes down to one design element: wheel tubs.
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Sure, the raspberry pearl paint, obnoxious scoop, and heartbeat graphics are a perfect representation of the era in which the Mirada was built, but big tires alone don’t make a Pro Street car. However, Roadkill’s newest fleet member does have the proper oil barrel-esque circular wheelwells to accommodate the 33-inch-tall, 15-inch-wide tires. What’s the plan for the raspberry Mopar? Roadkill road trip to the Pro Street Mecca: Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Du Quoin, Illinois!
What the Heck Is a 1980 Dodge Mirada?
The malaise era of American automotive manufacturing is famous for badge engineering—the most simplistic redesign of a car model across brands under one corporation, often just simple styling cues like grilles or bumpers. The Dodge Mirada, built from 1980-1983, is a superb example of the practice.
The Dodge Mirada is based on the second-generation Chrysler Cordoba and was marketed as a personal luxury car. The first-generation Chrysler Cordoba (1975-1979) broke Chrysler tradition and was a sales success, making up half of Chrysler’s total vehicle production during its production run. The 1975-1979 Cordoba was Chrysler’s first-ever “small car,” riding on a 115-inch wheelbase—9 inches smaller than its next largest Chrysler sibling—and Americans loved them; 150,000 were purchased in 1975 and the model peaked in 1978, with 183,000 units sold.
But that was when the Cordoba was on the B-body platform. For 1980, Chrysler updated the Cordoba to the J-platform, had Dodge badge-engineer the Mirada, and voila! Malaise-era junk that no one bought. The Dodge Mirada only moved 53,000 examples in its four years of production.
What the 1980 Dodge Mirada does have going for it is some classic Mopar DNA under its sheetmetal—front-mounted 360ci LA V-8, backed up by a TorqueFlite 727 automatic going to the rear wheels. Sure, the 360 LA V-8—making a smog-restricted and “fuel efficient” 185 hp in 1980 trim—isn’t the best mill out of Mopar’s storied muscle car history, but this was about as muscly as you could get from a financially struggling Chrysler in the 1980s.
It’s Not Pro Street Without Wheel Tubs
What, exactly, is a Pro Street car? According to David Freiburger, it’s a street car that has drag racing intentions and has the rear wheelwells cut out and replaced with huge, circular wheelwells to accommodate tall and wide drag tires. Most cars on HOT ROD Drag Week? Not Pro Street. What about 335-section tires out back? Nope, that ain’t it, either. And before you ask about power-adders or induction parts sticking through hoods—just, no.
When Pro Street was in its genesis in the mid/late 1970s, the builders were taking inspiration from the NHRA Pro Stock racing class. According to Freiburger, it’s debated who built the first proper Pro Street car—many credit Scott Sullivan’s Chevy Nova that debuted at the 1979 Car Craft Street Machine Nationals as the first Pro Street Car ever, but the style had been used before that on street cars.
By the 1980s, Pro Street cars could be anything—back-halfed and tubbed, full tube chassis, streetable, show car, race car—but when Freiburger went to his first Street Machine Nationals in 1992 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, the genre was more about show than go. Crazy custom paint jobs, full interiors on some cars, exposed engine parts, and of course the obligatory tubs—Freiburger’s introduction to Pro Street sure had a lot of style.
But for Freiburger, Pro Street isn’t just about racing pretensions and big meats out back. Pro Street cars should be stock(ish) bodied and at least be capable of driving on the street. Roadkill’s new Pro Street Dodge Mirada is exactly that, and complete with the nastiness and questionable reliability you expect on this show!
Roadkill’s Pro Street Dodge Mirada
If the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds are Pro Street Mecca, then Wesley Motorsports is Mopar race shop heaven, because that’s where Mike Finnegan and David Freiburger found this perfect piece of ’90s nostalgia. Under the very-’90s schnoz-scoop hood is what appears to be the completely stock 360ci LA V-8, dressed up with some fancy bits: velocity stack, Mickey Thompson valve covers (that made Finnegan think the Mirada had a 440 Olds swap), and some headers.
Out back, the guys find the Mirada has been back-halfed with rectangular tubing, never a good indicator for high build quality. The fuel tank has also been very sketchily mounted between the rear leaf springs and right above the rear axle, that’s not worrying in the least. But the interior is super cushy with its velour-covered plush bucket seats that only smell slightly moldy.
This Pro Street Dodge Mirada confuses (and delights) Finnegan and Freiburger because it’s obvious someone put time and effort into building it; the custom raspberry paint adorns the firewall and door jams, and the wheel tubs don’t look like a booger-weld hack job. But the back-half job is questionable, the wiring is a proper Roadkill cluster, the engine is a pig, and the rear gears are way too low—the Pro Street Mirada “cruises” at 55 mph at a “sedate” 3,000 rpm, even on 33-inch-tall tires.
David Freiburger even thinks the Mirada could fit 3-inch-wider tires than the Protrac 445s it’s on right now, with the right wheel. But that’s what makes the Pro Street Mirada so perfectly Roadkill. Now, can the guys get the old, fat meats to light up with that tired 360? Find out on the season 11 premiere of Roadkill, streaming now on MotorTrend+!
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